Leading Korean pharmaceutical companies are rapidly entering the business of distributing Covid-19 diagnostic kits.
Their decision came as the fourth wave of the virus outbreak recently hit the country despite the growing deployment of vaccines.
The need to screen for asymptomatic cases of Covid-19 has also increased.
Local drug makers said they would use their existing distribution channels to deliver diagnostic kits to pharmacies.
Daewoong Pharmaceutical said on Wednesday it had signed an agreement with CALTH, an in vitro medical device start-up, to deliver a rapid antigen test kit to the domestic market.
In November, Daewoong reached an agreement with Seasun Biomaterials to supply the latter’s six Covid-19 PCR test kits to the global market.
This time the company entered the local market for the distribution of diagnostic kits.
Under the latest deal, Daewoong plans to deliver CALTH’s AllCheck COVID-19 Ag to pharmacies across the country. AllCheck COVID-19 Ag is under regulatory review by the Department of Food and Drug Safety. Daewoong expects to be able to sell the test kit from the third quarter.
According to Daewoong, AllCheck COVID-19 Ag can detect the virus within 15 minutes of taking a nasopharyngeal sample. The test kit showed a sensitivity of 92.11 percent and specificity of 99.52 percent in clinical trials, the company said.
Daewoong pointed out that AllCheck COVID-19 Ag can effectively detect the Delta variant, first identified in India and now detected worldwide. This is because it targets not only the easily mutated spike protein, but also the nucleocapsid protein, which is the central nucleus of the virus.
In May, Hanmi Pharmaceutical launched SD Biosensor’s Covid-19 self-test kit as a branded product and distributed it to pharmacies nationwide.
Hanmi’s product, HANMI COVID-19 Home Test, is the same that SD Biosensor obtained with conditional approval from the drug regulator. Users can directly drop a sample from the nasal cavity into the kit to check for Covid-19 infection.
“The release of the Hanmi branded product will improve the company’s competitiveness in the distribution of drugs between pharmacies,” said a Hanmi official. “Our smooth distribution of self-test kits will help the country’s quarantine efforts. “
Hanmi has authorized Online Pharm, a subsidiary of Hanmi Science, to supply the product. The self-test kit is available from Online Pharm’s online shopping site, Hanmi Pro-Calm.
Dong-A ST is also on the verge of supplying local home test diagnostic kit to domestic market.
On May 24, Dong-A ST agreed with PCL to sell PCL’s home test kit in foreign countries. Under the non-exclusive sales contract, Dong-A ST’s overseas business division will register and sell the product in countries except those where PCL has already registered the product.
Dong-A ST introduces PCL’s product to its existing overseas customers and new diagnostic medical device companies. In some countries, the company has requested product registration. Dong-A ST has supplied the product in small quantities for countries in need of emergency use, the company said.
However, the two companies have not yet signed an agreement for local distribution because PCL’s self-test kit has not obtained approval in Korea.